Speech Synthesis and Spanish Intonation: The Effects of Peak Alignment on the Perception of Sentence Type
This paper presents a specific example of how intonation in language can be studied computationally using speech synthesis techniques. The study measures the effect of fundamental frequency and peak alignment on the perception of sentence type in Mexico City Spanish. Two one-word sentences were recorded and their intonational peaks and frequencies were systematically manipulated using a computer. Peaks were displaced in different intervals to the left and to the right, and the frequencies were adjusted to 270Hz and 320Hz. Then, two native speakers from Mexico City listened to these synthesized utterances and were asked to identify them as either declarative, interrogative or exclamative sentences. Results of the study show that interrogative sentences with the peak displaced to the right by 140ms are perceived as declaratives, and that declaratives with the peak displaced to the right by 100ms and 120ms are perceived as exclamative. Higher frequencies (320Hz) are perceived more often as interrogatives than as declaratives.
Keywords: Language, Technology, Intonation, Speech Synthesis, Spanish, Peak Alignment, Perception, Computational
Graduate Student, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Toronto